Facebook sends a Minneapolis reminder that it’s not a forum for free speech

June 16, 2013

The Associated Press’ recent story that a former Nazi commander has been living in Northeast Minneapolis has had a surprising and perhaps ironic consequence:  a reminder that Facebook is not a forum for free speech.

The Facebook page in question is Old Minneapolis, which features photographs of, well, old Minneapolis.  Its operator, Jesse Jamison, reports Facebook shut him down for 12 hours this weekend after he reposted information including a photograph from WCCO-TV identifying the location of the alleged Nazi commander’s Northeast Minneapolis home.

In Jamison’s words, complaints to Facebook were “flooding in,” and Facebook responded by banning the page for a half-day and sending this message referring him to Facebook’s “Community Standards”:


Here are the Community Standards.  It’s unclear which could have been violated. Was the reposting from mainstream media somehow a “threat” as defined by Facebook, or maybe a publication of “personal information of others without their consent”?  Could Facebook really characterize publication of information regarding an alleged Nazi’s home as “hate speech”?

The incident is a graphic reminder that while Facebook comes free of charge, it is not a public forum for freedom-of-speech purposes.  Because Facebook is privately owned, it is not a “state actor” for First Amendment purposes and the operators can ban whomever they want for whatever reason they want.


Indeed, Jamison also writes a Facebook user “was also blocked just for defending the page, and he didn’t use strong or threatening language.  The person that reported him has been banned permanently, and so have a few others that were using threatening language.”


13 Responses to “Facebook sends a Minneapolis reminder that it’s not a forum for free speech”

  1. Alex Says:

    Sounds like posting the name, address, and picture of someone’s home without their consent goes against the “identity and privacy” section of the community standards. It should be noted that the linked article did NOT contain the address, so it wasn’t just a case of the poster summarizing the article.

  2. medialawminnesota Says:

    The specific language from the Community Standards is: “We ask that you refrain from publishing the personal information of others without their consent.” If Facebook forbids posting this information and will use it as grounds to ban users, Facebook should use stronger language and not merely “request” users to “refrain” from doing so.

    The Community Standards also state (albeit in the Bullying and Harassment section): “We allow users to speak freely on matters and people of public interest …” This appears not to be true when the matter of public interest involves this sort of issue.

  3. Alan Says:

    To clarify, FB put Jesse the individual on ice for 12 hours. The page, which features more than just photos, continued to be accessible to read and to post to.

  4. medialawminnesota Says:

    Good clarification Alan, thanks.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    The Strib published the street and block number in their story, and the house number was in a photo.

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